The one thing I got out of the South Dakota trip was the power of prayer. At our first meeting with the teens and parents, when we first put together the team and laid out what we needed to do in terms of practice and fundraising, we all talked about the importance of prayer.
We also talked about the importance of breathing. When I told the kids we had $9,000 to raise, you can bet a few of them stopped breathing for a minute! It's the same with competition - you need to remember to control your breathing. Our motto soon became, "Pray and Breathe."
Every email, every meeting, ended with "Pray and Breathe!"
Several moms committed to praying for the team. Each week they gave praise for all the blessings we were witnessing in the area of pulling this team together for a national competition. They also offered up petitions for the team's needs.
When the day finally arrived to get in the van and drive to South Dakota, we stopped in the driveway and prayed for God's blessing. This routine was repeated every morning before taking off in the van. We also remembered to stop and give thanks each evening for the day's blessings.
Since I could not be on the range with the kids and had to stay in the viewing area, my job was to pray. I made sure they had plenty of water, food, etc., but my main job was to pray. The first day of competition was bullseyes at 50 yards. I sat in the viewing area with my hoodie pulled tight around my face and a blanket on my lap (it was quite chilly that morning at 8 am) praying silently to myself. I must of looked a bit of a spectacle as I caught Teen Daughter giggling at me from the line.
That day, 3 of the 4 muzzleloaders shot their personal best. If you're going to do your personal best, do it in competition not in practice! The fourth shooter had an equipment malfunction, but once things got working again, he was shooting 9s and 10s! That evening, the muzzleloading team placed 5th and Teen Son won the silver medal.
The next day was a different story. There was a rule change made in May that we were not aware of. The state was notified by the national organization. But, for some reason, it was not passed on to the team coaches.
What happened was that the silhouettes the teens were shooting were made for pistol, not muzzleloading. If they were shot at full powder, they would fold in half and be ruined. The idea it to just knock them off the stand. So, we were instructed to use half of the usual black powder. If we had known this in advance, we would have brought a second set of guns. Our guns were not made for so little powder. Plus they had to be completely resighted. You see, by using half the black powder the ball moves slower and therefore drops farther as it moves toward the target.
(A little muzzleloading lesson here. You basically make your own bullet. You pack in the gun powder, then a patch of cloth, and then the metal ball. It's all very Civil War.)
Anyhoo, things got off to a bad start. Add to that, it was Teen Son's day to have an equipment malfunction. It was fixed fairly quickly, but it threw him off a bit. Also, I could not do my job as prayer warrior that day as I was enlisted as a scorekeeper.
We had counted on silhouettes being "our event." It was the day we were to shine, especially Teen Daughter. But in the end, the team didn't place in the top ten. Teen Son did manage a 9th place ribbon that night. The way cool thing was that the team didn't let it get them down. Some of us parents let it bum us out, but the kids remained upbeat with the promise that "tomorrow is another day."
Well, tomorrow is another day. I got back to my job as prayer warrior, sitting on my stadium chair amidst the foot high grass. (Later learning that rattle snakes had been spotted there the day before!) Let me stop and say here that praying nonstop for 2 or 3 hours is tiring. I was more worn out than the teens!
Not discouraged in the least form the previous day's disappoinment, the team shot fantastic. This day was bottles and critters at 25 yards. No, they didn't shoot actual glass bottles or real critters. First they shoot targets with pictures of bottles and then targets with pictures of small animals. This is harder than it sounds. With bottles, you need to shoot completely within the narrow neck continously in order to gain a medal-contending score. Shoot in the body of the bottle you only get 5 points instead of 10. If your shot is not completely within the bottle, you only get partial points. The critters are small and difficult to see - these guns do not have scopes.
At the end of shooting, the competitors are given the opportunity to review their targets and the scores given. Teen Son had a protest - he was scored a miss for what should've been scored as a partial hit. This resulted in a 7 point gain. He also discovered an adding error. This error gave him 10 too many points. Without a second thought, he took went to the judge and pointed out that he needed to deduct 10 points from his score.
One of the things we all had prayed for was that we would give glory to God in competition. To me, Teen Son's action here was an answer to that prayer.
That night at the awards banquet, the team received the bronze medal. You should have seen the thrill on their faces - they truly shined. They were even more thrilled to see Teen Son, their teamate, their friend and brother, win the gold medal.
It was really something watching Teen Son that week. Teen Daughter was a beauty to watch too, but there was something about Teen Son's focus that blew me away. He was so completely focused on the task at hand that there was no distracting him. One morning, as we prepared to leave our bed and breakfast, I went to tell him it was time to go. I saw him sitting out on the deck with his lips moving. I thought to myself, "Who is he talking to? Is he talking to himself?" Then I realized he had a rosary in his hand. I also spied him praying his rosary as we drove the long drove each morning to the range. I think that prayerful approach helped with that focus.
Pray and breathe!